Coronavirus Live Updates: As Social Limits Slow Spread, Calls Grow to Ease Them

Limits on public life slow the outbreak, but patience is wearing thin.

After a solitary Easter Sunday, Americans entered another week in social isolation confronted by two contradictory facts.

The lockdowns that have transformed daily life across the country are working, slowing the spread of the virus, protecting hospitals and health care workers, and saving lives.

But the lockdowns have brought commerce to a shuddering halt, forcing more than 16 million people onto the unemployment rolls, threatening to provoke a deep and long-lasting recession and disrupting global supply chains with unpredictable and profound consequences.

Those two realities cannot coexist indefinitely, yet there is no clear way to cut the Gordian knot. The return to a semblance of normalcy, experts say, will not happen overnight but in stages and at different speeds for different locations.

But the virus has proved itself resistant to the timelines of governments, and it will largely fall to individual states to chart their own courses.

“Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected,” President Trump tweeted on Sunday night. “Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!”

But the federal government plays a major role in the testing effort, and stumbles in deploying rapid and widely accessible tests were still causing problems. And there were new concerns about federal oversight of antibody tests, which could be used to tell who has contracted the virus. Those people should have developed some level of immunity and can presumably return to work safely.

“I am concerned that some of the antibody tests that are in the market that haven’t gone through the F.D.A. scientific review may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be,” Stephan Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No test is 100 percent perfect. But what we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests. Because, as I said before, that’s going to be much worse.”

The governor’s morning update tracked closely with news from the state over the last week: daily death tolls approaching 800 and the rate of hospitalizations continuing to fall. The governor compared his experience of the outbreak to the film “Groundhog Day,” saying that each day felt like a repeat of the day before.

Mr. Cuomo again criticized the federal response to the coronavirus, saying that money had been misdirected, with states that were less hard hit getting a disproportionate share.

He said
that he would sign an executive order requiring employers at essential businesses to provide employees with cloth or surgical face masks to wear when interacting with the public.

In all, the state has now had 9,385 deaths related to the coronavirus, the governor said.

In addition to heightened risk of contagion, close quarters can worsen a host of ills, from flared tempers to child abuse and domestic violence.

“The pandemic is a reminder that privacy is at a premium among the poor — hard to find and extremely valuable,” said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs. The ability to retreat into one’s own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety.”

Some poor people are curled on friends’ couches. Some are looking after newly penned-up children in dilapidated homes. Many are dependent on public places — buses, laundromats, convenience stores, food banks, internet connections — at a time when the ability to stay home has never been more valuable.

In addition to having more stable space, the affluent often have greater latitude to remain inside it. They can work on Zoom, shop on Amazon and have gig workers deliver meals. Often lacking credit cards, computers or other conveniences of middle-class life, the needy are forced to resort to errands and lines.

The politics of the coronavirus have made it seem indecent to talk about the future. As President Trump has flirted with reopening the United States quickly — saying in late March that he’d like to see “packed churches” on Easter and returning to the theme days ago with “we cannot let this continue” — public-health experts have felt compelled to call out the dangers. Many Americans have responded by rejecting as monstrous the whole idea of any trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy. And in the near term, it’s true that those two goals align: For the sake of both, it’s imperative to keep businesses shuttered and people in their homes as much as possible.

In the longer run, though, it’s important to acknowledge that a trade-off will emerge — and become more urgent as the economy slides deeper into recession. The staggering toll of unemployment has reached more than 16 million in just three weeks. There will be difficult compromises between doing everything possible to save lives from Covid-19 and preventing other life-threatening harm.

When can we ethically bring people back to work and school and begin to resume the usual rhythms of American life? The New York Times Magazine has brought five different experts to talk about the principles and values that will determine the choices we make at that future point.

As Americans hunker down during the pandemic, free fitness workouts, many of them delightfully low-tech, have multiplied on social media platforms.

Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Peter Baker, Jason DeParle and Vanessa Swales.

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